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Online subscription services like, Netflix, etc. typically make it difficult to close accounts. They make the button hard to find, or force you to click through multiple pages to do so.

Recently I tried to close my Zipcar account, only to discover that there is no way to do so on the website -- you have to call them. Intuitively this feels like a line has been crossed to me, but are there any legal protections here?

Could a company make it arbitrarily difficult for users to stop their subscriptions without legal penalties?

  • From a practical perspective, the ability to cease to pay charges associated with an account can force them to come to you in most cases, although this doesn't fully address your larger question. – ohwilleke Dec 31 '17 at 21:58
  • @ohwilleke Good point, which makes me curious -- is there a practical way to use that tactic? Instruct one's bank to refuse charges from a certain company? – Eli Rose -- REINSTATE MONICA Dec 31 '17 at 22:13
  • You can absolutely do that. – ohwilleke Dec 31 '17 at 23:27
  • This isn't crossing a line. A lot of startups do not build in more automated ways of deleting accounts until the number of requests becomes unmanageable that it no longer makes sense for them to do it manually. It's very common. Uber did the same thing. Even Stack Exchange had a partly manual process until this year. As long as they have a way there's usually not much restriction on how. – animuson Jan 1 '18 at 2:55
  • I believe these are called "barriers" in economic theory. I don't think they are illegal on their own. Automated/menu driven phone systems are a considerable barrier for senior citizens, but the phone systems are pervasive. (There are studies on automated/menu driven phone systems and [poor] usability by seniors). – jww Jul 27 '19 at 9:44

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